I remember checking my class schedule the summer before freshman and year and seeing that I was enrolled in a Critical Thinking and Writing course titled “Food, Self and Culture.” I had no idea what to expect because this topic seemed so broad. Little did I know that I would be exploring some of the most interesting, provocative and controversial topics. We learned about America’s factory farming system and the violence and corruption that exist through Jonathan Foer’s book Eating Animals and the movie Food, Inc. Before starting college, I had never questioned where my food came from. I thought that animals roamed green pastures while farmers took care of them. Little did I know that the animals that I eat live in the most horrendous conditions and endure much suffering before and during slaughter. This is a reality I had to face during my CTW experience.
I come from a world where efficiency and innovation is praised. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to come to Santa Clara University and live in Silicon Valley. But sometimes innovation comes at a cost. The United States currently has the most innovation in regards to the food system. Nearly three quarters of all genetically engineered crops are grown in the United States (Letourneau). Of these crops, corn is the most grown and is used to feed animals in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). The use of genetically engineered corn high in calories, antibiotics and animal genetic engineering has become a way for the factory farming system to produce more animals and increase revenue. But with this increased rate of production, more and more sick animals are continuing to be processed into meat that is sold to consumers. In 1972, the FDA conducted over 50,000 inspections. This number dropped to 9,000 by 2006 (Food Inc.). Innovation has caused consumers to pay a price. In Food Inc., I learned about Kevin, a young boy who died from eating meat contaminated with E. coli. There are many others like Kevin who have suffered because of the amount of contaminated meat that is sold to consumers.
In my third essay in CTW 1 I researched non-ambulatory – also known as downer – animals in the factory farming system. Since they are constantly on the ground near feces, non-ambulatory animals have a higher risk for carrying diseases (Repphun). The Federal Meat Inspection Act still allows for downed animals to be processed and sold for consumption. This issue was taken to the Supreme Court where they ruled that downed animals are acceptable to be sold, and over 100,000 downers have continued to be sold every year (Imhoff). There is no way to tell if a yummy In-N-Out burger contains meat from a downed animal. As long as downed animals are continued to be sold on the market, foodborne outbreaks will continue and consumers will remain at risk.
Doing research on the factory farming system opened my eyes to the fine line between innovation and danger. I never realized how much the factory farm system is able to cover up the horrors and treatment of animals. There is a disassociation when the consumer eats meat. For the consumer, meat is a product, not an animal. The consumer doesn’t have to be concerned about where meat comes from – all she needs to worry about is looking for the best cut of meat at the best price at her local supermarket.
I wanted to explore this “covering up” aspect from a different angle during the second quarter of CTW. While I was doing some research about violence in reality television, I came across a show called Bridalplasty. This show features 12 brides who are competing for the grand prize of unlimited cosmetic surgery before their wedding. The trailer for the show is quite grotesque and brutal, something that I was shocked would be featured on television. The footage includes women undergoing surgery, having needles injected into their bodies, and surgeons cutting skin while these women are unconscious. It also shows doctors using hammers on faces, operating saws, stitching the skin back together, and injecting needles in women’s foreheads while blood comes out of their skin.
Bridalplasty shows cosmetic surgery for what it is – gruesome, painful and at times violent. Bridalplasty is successful as a television show because viewers are attracted and disgusted both at the same time. Have you ever watched a scary movie and put your hands over your eyes at the scary part? Did you ever try and peek? Bridalplasty brings about the same reactions to viewers because the show glorifies the grisly and repugnant aspects of cosmetic surgery.
The effects of cosmetic surgery are overlooked because of the glamour and beauty involved. People often use cute terms like “nips and tucks” to mask the horror of what really happens in cosmetic surgery (Morgan). The harm that accompanies mutilating one’s body is overlooked and the focus is placed on how the person has changed, how her breasts look bigger, or how much younger she looks. The phrase “beauty is pain” has never been more true.
Through CTW I learned how to develop my hunches into theses supported by research. I exercised critical thinking and learned how to synthesize. I experienced uncovering what has been covered up. Sometimes we like to keep things covered because reality is too horrific, shocking or painful to face. The skills I developed in this class will help me look at issues around me and see them for what they are, not what they seem to be.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Little, Brown and Company, 2009. Print.
Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. By Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein, and Kim Roberts. Movie One, 2008.
Imhoff, Daniel. The CAFO Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories. San Francisco: Foundation for Deep Ecology, 2010. Print.
Letourneau, Deborah K & Burrows, Beth Elpern. Genetically Engineered Organisms: Assessing Environmental and Human Health Effects. CRC Press LLC. Print.
Morgan, Kathryn Pauly. Women and the Knife: Cosmetic Surgery and the Colonization of Women’s Bodies. Hypatia, 1991. Print.
Repphun, Andrea M. “Pigs In A Blanket: How Current Meat Inspection Regulations Wrap America In False Security.” Drake Journal of Agricultural Law 16.1 (2011): 183-206. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Nov. 2014